As our first full week at Lenkai comes to a close, we are beginning to learn new realities about the students that are both amazing and shocking. One girl played the violin for the First Lady of Kenya last year, and others are preparing to take their National Exams in order to proceed from primary to secondary school, the Kenyan equivalent of high school. On Monday, we met Headmaster George and Teacher Oscar, both of whom are incredible men of God that work for the good of everyone they come into contact with. Oscar showed us around the grounds, and we were introduced to all of the classes, which range from Baby Class to Class 8. We walked around the farm, and were also able to learn about the Rescue Center.
Of the 180 students at Lenkai, at least half of them are rescue center students that are educated at the school, and they live there as well. These children come from a variety of harsh, dangerous backgrounds. Girls have been rescued from early arranged marriages, where the girl is 8-12 years old and the man is upwards of 60 years. Boys have been rescued at the 11th hour, while they are being trafficked in small crates from one place to another at a price roughly equal to $20,000. Some girls will carry children when they are as young as age 13, and have the responsibilities of a mother when they can barely care for themselves, while others yet have experienced realities so terrible that I do not wish to share them.
These children have been through trauma that most of us cannot imagine. Lenkai is their sanctuary. The kids are fed, housed, and educated all within the same place, where they know that they are safe and loved. Bible courses are integrated into their academic curriculum, so they know the Lord intimately and constantly give Him thanks and praise. Clearly, the Lord is making these students strong. They sing and dance at church, they wake up at 5:00 each morning just so they can fit in one extra class during school and never fall behind, and they don’t stop studying or working until 9:00 pm when they finally go to bed and rest. These students take the promise of education seriously and put me to shame in their work ethic, creating in me a desire to work and serve in any and every way possible.
Oscar told us stories about calls he has received at 11:00 pm, when a child is about to be sold, and they only have approximately two hours to intervene. The police are always contacted, and a rescue mission is executed swiftly.
“When you hear of someone in trouble, you must act.” He said. “There’s nothing you can do like assisting someone else. That’s the best thing you can do in life.”
Oscar’s statement clearly expresses the simplicity of reasoning that Jesus has when He gives us The Great Commission. No matter the circumstance, we are called to help others, and the greatest aid one could ever be given is the Good News of Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection are the only things that will ever truly heal us, and it is our duty to share that gift with others. So often we say that we must meet the immediate physical needs of others, but when someone does not appear to be hurting externally we overlook them and say they are fine, when in reality we completely miss the spiritual depravity that might be plaguing the individual. Or if not this, we make excuses as to why we cannot help, we cannot share, or we aren’t fit to serve a certain person or people group.
“When you hear of someone who is in trouble, you must act…”
Oscar would never turn away a girl from Lenkai to be sold into slavery because the beds are full. Though currently there are roughly twenty beds for forty girls, and the girls and boys sleep at least two and sometimes three to a bunk each night, Oscar made it very clear that the child will always be rescued, for this is often a matter of life or death, and always a fight for justice concerning the child. In all cases help is given to others, justice is fought for, and the action is always genuine.
Yet I pass off even my own spiritual needs with excuses of homework, exhaustion, or forgetfulness, much less immediately rush to aid someone else. I don’t always take the time to listen to the needs of others, because I am “too busy” or I am focused on a different matter. In reality, it’s more likely that I am too prideful, and am placing my desire for comfort over the immediate needs of others.
Of course, it is important to distinguish between needs and wants. Often in western society the two ideas are conflated, and the result is a misunderstanding of how we should love others. Viewed primarily as a feeling, love becomes a mandatory submission to another’s will in order to satisfy a desire they hold. In fact, this is commonly how we expect to be loved as well. Simply having a desire or want does not mean that it is from God and that it should be acted upon or satisfied, but if a true spiritual or physical need is found in someone, action should be taken immediately to help the individual. Regardless of need or want, all aid should be born out of a heart of love and adoration for the Lord, seeing others as a reflection of His Glory, and never performed out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
If only I might be called too loving… that I would assist others without any hesitation, even if other areas of my ever important personal life (my often narcissistic goals and aspirations) might be harmed for it. Lenkai Christian School trusts God fully, and believes that He will provide for them, no matter the circumstances. No one there worries over, painfully contemplates, or reluctantly comes to the conclusion that the Lord should be trusted, for everyone has an unwavering faith and confidence that the Lord will provide. They know that to love the Lord is to love others; to take care of women and children in need; to feed the hungry, and to clothe the poor. Many today understand this truth, and they will tell of great plans they have to help others, and boast of all that they know concerning the Lord’s love and how one should love selflessly. Yet in reality, they are full of proud words, and no action follows their promise. At Lenkai, action always follows promise. People act without hesitation or need for contemplation, because they know the Lord intimately, and His Word is inscribed on their hearts. They act immediately, without trumpets sounding to announce their actions, truly working for the good of others.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.
– 1 John 3: 16-18
Some may call them impulsive, others yet irrational. The Lenkai community is one that outsiders look at and call too loving, for it puts others first at all times, even at individual expense. Understanding that God is love and because God so loved them, they place great importance on loving one another. They know that even when everything else has been lost from view, forgotten, or argued away, three things remain; Faith, Hope, and Love. Against, all odds, Lenkai has faith in the Lord to provide, and provide He does. In the darkest of moments, these boys and girls who have suffered so much have hope in the Lord, and a hope of a new life full of safety and education because of Him. Because these two entities are firmly ingrained into them, the teachers and children of Lenkai are able to fully love others.
Today, one of the rescue center boys helped Sage carry a water bucket across the school grounds. When they dropped it off in front of the boy’s dormitory, Sage offered him a green Jolly Rancher as a way to say thank you. There were several other boys around, and immediately after receiving it, this boy of no more than five years old split the small piece of candy into five separate pieces with his teeth, and one by one his friends received a share of the candy. By the time the Jolly Rancher was completely split apart, I wasn’t sure if the boy had even kept any for himself. He didn’t stare at the piece of candy, and contemplate whether or not he should share. He didn’t look at his friends, and remember that maybe it would be nice if he gave something to them. His actions were immediate, and the other boys received the candy as though the actions were to be expected, as if this was a common occurrence.
The greatest of all human qualities and an attribute of God himself, love encompasses all that the Lenkai community does. Without hesitation or contemplation, they know only active, selfless love, and they clearly understand that the only reason we are capable of loving at all is because He first loved us. Love is the action through which we are all called to aid and serve others, and I am very clearly observing and experiencing the effect it has. The students and staff at Lenkai have already shown more love to me than I could imagine, and I pray that I may be able to show them every bit as much love in return.